Here I am at Rotherham's main cemetery looking at the crematorium's chimney where powdered bits of George were sent skyward. I'm and geek and thought Iíd go to see where his final journey ended.
George was born in Bradford in Yorkshire and brought up by his mum who was a domestic servant in a large house. His dad wasnít about though itís thought he was his mumís boss. He was raised by his grandparents and then his aunt. His first job was woollen spinner in a mill at Sowerby Bridge until moving to Rotherham where he came a weigh clerk at a colliery. Aged 21 he enlisted in the Army and was sent to France. A year after joining on Saturday 3rd June 1916 he was in the trenches in Mťaulte in Somme. The platoon was under very heavy bombardment. Another soldier who was carrying an important written message to his commanding officer was nearly killed when a bomb landed near him. He was half buried and rendered unconscious. George witnessed this and immediately went to retrieve the message from the man's pocket. Though severely wounded, half blinded and choking with gas he ran with the message. The Germans launched shells and a wall of machine-gun bullets at him but somehow he survived. He was taken to hospital where a leg was amputated.
The VC medal was presented to him by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 4th November 1916. After the war he was still a young man and lived in Rotherham, delivering milk for a living. Aged 35 he set up a poultry farm in 1929 and then moved to the Ministry of Labour and National Service where he worked for 35 years. During the Second World War he was part of the Home Guard as a platoon sergeant (even though a leg was missing.) Though he never married nor had children he was poor. When he was 62 locals raised £189 to allow him to travel to London for the VC Centenary celebrations.
He died aged 71 at Rotherham General Hospital and was cremated here where Iím stood. He largely responsible for creating the Bramley Youth and Community Centre and his ashes were sprinkled in the yard there.
Thereís a bit of footage of the hero here (afraid he's only coming and out a door.) It's obvious which is the wooden leg...
Rotherham Crematorium is in the main cemetery, down a hill at the rear. There were a few doors and I tried some handles without success. I took a few photos and did a hearty salute and headed back up to the car. As I walked up the hill a security man in a van came down and pulled up beside me. He saw the camera in my hand and said taking photos of the crematorium wasn't allowed due to break-ins (I'm not sure what's worth nicking.) He said, "Someone said a man pointing into the air and saluting was seen trying door handles so I thought I'd better come and have a look." I told him it was me, the toilet door was locked and I'd slashed in a bush. I'm not sure he trusted me as when I took more photographs outside the cemetery he was watching me.
It had been quite a drive but I was testing the Smart car and brave Victoria Cross folk are always worth the time and petrol.
The chimney through which of George went skyward...